The crucial phone in public etiquette rules. The appropriate behavior for using your phone in public places without annoying others or looking unsophisticated.

What phone in public etiquette is

Phone in public etiquette is the set of rules to properly use the phone in public venues or in presence of other people. Such rules include when and where it is best to avoid using the phone, and the appropriate behaviors to avoid incidents or conflicts.

Respect phone in public etiquette to avoid annoying or offending others, or to politely deal with people using their phone at work, in your house, or in public places.

General phone in public etiquette principles

Smoking etiquette is based on two main principles.

  • Respect others. Avoid disrupting other people’s activity, or disrespecting people you are with.
  • Avoid hazards.
phone rules for public places, how to use the phone without annoying others

Phone in public etiquette rules

1) Respect no-phone rules

Strictly respect no-phone rules and signs. Never use your phone in locations where it is not allowed.

In some areas or under some circumstances the use of the phone may be restricted or forbidden. Such as on planes, in hospitals, or on military or police areas. Respect such rules to avoid potential harm, fines, or even imprisonment.

2) Avoid using the phone in confined public places

Avoid talking on your phone in public places with limited space. Such as cars, elevators, small rooms, or any place where other people cannot avoid hearing your voice and your conversation.

Similarly, do not use your phone in any public place that requires silence. Such as a library, church or temple, and theater.

3) Pay undivided attention to others 

Pay undivided attention to other people. Either use your phone or interact with others.

Do not let your phone interrupt a conversation or an activity. Turn your phone off or put it in silent mode. Do not glance at your cell phone while talking with someone or during a meeting.

If you are waiting for an important call or message while you’re with someone, notify them in advance. If the call or message comes, apologize before looking at your phone.

4) Avoid hurting people or damaging items

Using the phone can be distracting. Thus, it is good phone etiquette to avoid using it while doing something else. Never use your phone while you drive a car, bicycle, or e-scooter. Also, do not walk and stare at your phone. Look where you go.

Otherwise, you risk harming yourself, harming others, or damaging items including your phone.

5) Be appropriate when using your phone in public

A crucial rule of phone etiquette is to limit noise and annoyance to other people. If you do otherwise, you look in desperate need of attention and unsophisticated.

  • Speak softly.
  • Turn the speaker off or use your headphones.
  • Limit the volume of your ringtone.
  • Do not play music, videos, or games with sound effects.
  • Do not talk about personal or confidential topics.
  • Avoid foul language.

6) Allow others to do their job

Pay special attention to respecting people that are working. Do not use your phone while others are assisting you. Such as when you are ordering food, getting attended to, or asking for something.

7) Do not use your phone during a meal

Avoid using your phone during a meal, as it could disrupt the restaurant staff and the other guests. Turn it off or put it in silent mode. Do not place the phone on the table or keep it on your lap. Using your phone, texting, or browsing during a meal is very bad manners, as it implies that the other guests do not deserve your attention. 

8) Apply the appropriate phone etiquette to each place

The general phone etiquette rules apply to every situation or public place. However, some occasions or venues call for additional rules or extra care.

Phone etiquette at someone else’s house

Limit the use of your phone when you are a guest at someone else’s house. Doing otherwise signals that you do not value your host and the other guests, and that you are bored.

Phone etiquette at work or in the office

At work, follow a few additional phone etiquette rules to look professional and avoid annoying coworkers, customers, or business partners.

Switch your phone off during a meeting or when you are with others. It is acceptable to take personal phone calls while at work. However, keep them brief and unfrequent. Personal phone calls longer than 5 minutes are inappropriate. When you take a personal phone call, leave your desk and go somewhere where others cannot hear the conversation. Do not occupy a meeting room for a personal phone call.

Using your phone in public transportation

Using a mobile phone in public transportation is sometimes forbidden. However, even when it is not explicitly forbidden, you should limit its use. Public transportation such as a train, subway, or bus, is usually a crowded environment with limited space. Often, other people cannot avoid listening to your phone conversation. Thus, the risk of annoying others and creating conflict is higher.

Phone etiquette in hotels, bed & breakfasts, and hostels

Apply phone etiquette in public or shared areas, or when dealing with the staff.

Using your phone in restaurants, cafes, and bars

Avoid using your phone when you are with other people, or when you are interacting with the staff. Such as when you order or get served.

Schools, hospitals, and care houses

Apply extra care when you are in public places that require quiet.

Phone etiquette in public open-air venues 

Even in public open-air venues, it is best to follow phone etiquette and limit the noise.

How to deal with someone with bad phone etiquette

If someone does not respect phone in public etiquette, it is often sufficient to make them aware of the appropriate behavior. However, be understanding and speak in a non-threatening, neutral tone.

In public venues, it is best to avoid any conflict. You may make the person aware of the behavior that is annoying you. However, if this is not enough, do not try to reinforce the etiquette by yourself. Instead, if it is possible, leave and avoid the annoying behavior. If you cannot leave or change your seat, notify the appropriate persons, such as the plane or restaurant staff.

phone in public places etiquette mistakes

Phone in public etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst phone in public etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Using the phone where it is not allowed.
  • 10/10. Using your phone while driving.
  • 9/10. Making unnecessary or excessive noise. 
  • 8/10. Using your phone when you are with others.
  • 8/10. Using your phone when others are attending to you.


  • Mobile Phone Use “on the Road”: A Self-Report Study on Young Drivers: